Why Should MLB Bettors Fade the Public in Night Games?

If you’re a frequent visitor of this website, you know the team at Sports Insights tends to be oppositional to the mainstream convention. We extract value by taking teams others won’t and grabbing lines that have been artificially inflated based on public perception. By examining some of the top historical betting trends and identifying sharp money indicators, we inform bettors on how they can capitalize on the predictable behavior of casual bettors. Whenever the public zigs, we zag.

Past research has conclusively proven that betting against the public will produce a positive return on investment, and that’s particularly true in baseball where oddsmakers are far more willing to shade their lines based on public money due to the long duration of the season. Contrarian bettors can easily capitalize one market overreactions by fading the public, but that’s an especially profitable strategy in heavily bet games with limited involvement from sharp bettors.

Balanced books are a myth and oddsmakers are willing to have liability if they believe they’re on the right side. Sportsbooks seek to maximize profits, and they won’t adjust their numbers based on public betting unless there’s a massive liability on one side. That’s one reason bettors should avoid betting against the public during day games, and instead focus on night games. (For this article, I have defined any game with a start time of 6 PM eastern as a night game and anything before that time as a day game.)

Since 2005, 50.4% of all night games have received more bets than the daily average. Conversely, just 38.9% of all day games have received more bets than the daily average. Due to the earlier start time, bettors have less opportunity to place their wager on day games. This decreased volume means minimal risk for sportsbooks and fewer artificially inflated lines which, as our research shows, has caused the value derived from betting against the public to wane substantially in day games.

On the other hand, bettors can maximize their profits by fading the public in heavily bet night games. Since bettors have all day to place their wagers, sportsbooks will oftentimes have substantial liability in games with one-sided betting. Although they’re not necessarily looking to balance their book, oddsmakers are more inclined to shade their number to discourage action on the public side. That’s when the opportunistic contrarian bettors can capitalize on the new, inflated line.

The table below displays the performance of teams receiving less than 30% of moneyline tickets, which has historically been the sweet spot for fading the public.

(Note: Plays are graded based on the closing line at Pinnacle)

Time Period Record Win Rate Units Won/Lost ROI
Day Games 1,400-2,103 40.0% -118.20 -3.4%
Night Games 3,242-4,487 41.9% +123.60 +1.6%

With less public money entering the marketplace, oddsmakers have little incentive to adjust their numbers in day games — even in games with extremely one-sided public betting. On the flip side, late games give public bettors ample time to place their wagers, and this influx of public money creates far more liability for sportsbooks. Assuming sharp bettors aren’t heavily involved; this public money will create artificial line value for contrarian bettors willing to take the unpopular side of a game.

This strategy has been incredibly profitable in West Coast games, as the later start time gives bettors more opportunity to place their wager. Since 2005, teams receiving less than 30% of moneyline tickets have gone 544-713 with +57.06 units won and a 4.5% return on investment (ROI) in games that start at 10 PM eastern or later.

This information was compelling but I wanted to see whether increasingly one-sided public betting would change these results, so I decided to examine all teams receiving less than 20% of moneyline bets. Although the overall return on investment increased, it was still a losing strategy to fade the public during day games.

Time Period Record Win Rate Units Won/Lost ROI
Day Games 342-564 37.7% -42.25 -4.7%
Night Games 846-1,218 41.0% +84.05 +4.1%

It’s worth noting that public bettors overwhelmingly like taking favorites, which explains why most of our contrarian strategies focusing on underdogs. Over the last thirteen seasons, 10,761 of 11,232 (95.8%) teams receiving at least 70% of moneyline tickets and 2947 of 2970 (99.2%) teams receiving at least 80% of moneyline tickets have closed as the favorite. That trend is even more pronounced in these night games.

Although betting against the public hasn’t been a profitable strategy in day games, it’s been highly lucrative in night games. It’s also critical to realize the majority of day games take place over the weekend, as the Cubs are one of the few teams who consistently play day games during the work week. Even if we focus solely on weekend games, you can see that teams receiving less than 30% of moneyline tickets have been far more profitable in night games.

Time Period Record Win Rate Units Won/Lost ROI
Day Games 920-1,374 40.1% -85.16 -3.7%
Night Games 537-724 42.6% +31.11 +2.5%

Betting against the public is one of our founding philosophies, and our Square Plays identify the sweet spot for this strategy. These plays, which are available exclusively to Sportsbook Insider Pro members, have gone 16-15 (+4.4 units) this season and 1,817-2,369 (+130.2 units) since 2006.

In addition to these Square Plays, Sportsbook Insider Pro subscribers have access to real-time odds, public betting trends, money percentages, breaking injury alerts, lineup notifications, and much more. Sign up for a 4-day Pro trial and start winning today!

Have any questions for the staff at Sports Insights? Utilize our live chat to speak with a customer service representative or e-mail us at help@sportsinsights.com.

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David Solar

David Solar is the Content Manager at Sports Insights. He specializes in sports betting analytics and creating data-driven betting systems. He can be reached directly at david@sportsinsights.com or on twitter at @TheDavidSolar.

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